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Filtered or Unfiltered Olive Oil? A Choice for Consumers

While most consumers opt for filtered olive oil, there are some who still prefer the cloudy look. Which is better?

Sep. 17, 2021
By Costas Vasilopoulos

Recent News

Olive oil proĀ­ducĀ­tion is the process of extractĀ­ing the oil conĀ­tained in olive druĀ­pes and involves a sequence of stages in a mill.

After the olives are harĀ­vested, they are transĀ­ported to the mill, washed and crushed into a thick paste, which underĀ­goes a process called malaxĀ­aĀ­tion (or kneadĀ­ing). Malaxation is a critĀ­iĀ­cal stage that allows the oil droplets to comĀ­bine and form larger droplets.

It is easy to underĀ­stand that food which is meant to be kept for a long time must be as clean as posĀ­siĀ­ble, filĀ­tered, and stored in steel conĀ­tainĀ­ers.- Matia Barciulli, chef and olive oil enthuĀ­siĀ­ast

Then the paste is fed to a cenĀ­trifuge which spins the paste to sepĀ­aĀ­rate the oil from the fruit flesh, pits and water.

See Also:Olive Oil Basics

Finally, the resultĀ­ing olive oil is passed on to a smaller cenĀ­trifuge machine ā€“ the sepĀ­aĀ­raĀ­tor ā€“ which removes most of the remainĀ­ing water and susĀ­pended solids in the oil.

Thus, olive oil is born. If it fulĀ­fills speĀ­cific qualĀ­ity and senĀ­sory criĀ­teĀ­ria, it is clasĀ­siĀ­fied as extra virĀ­gin, comĀ­prisĀ­ing all the health benĀ­eĀ­fits that olive oil of the highĀ­est qualĀ­ity proĀ­vides.


After the transĀ­forĀ­maĀ­tion process is comĀ­pleted, there are two paths for proĀ­ducĀ­ers to choose from to get their olive oil to marĀ­ket.

They can botĀ­tle the olive oil as is, unfilĀ­tered. The other option is to filĀ­ter or rack the olive oil, dependĀ­ing on the techĀ­nique applied. Filtration (or rackĀ­ing) removes any remainĀ­ing solid parĀ­tiĀ­cles and moisĀ­ture.

The first apparĀ­ent difĀ­ferĀ­ence between filĀ­tered and unfilĀ­tered olive oil is appearĀ­ance: unfilĀ­tered olive oil is opaque and cloudy due to the solid residĀ­uĀ­als present in the oil, while filĀ­tered olive oil is brighter and more transĀ­parĀ­ent, free of impuĀ­riĀ­ties.

Olive oil filĀ­traĀ­tion is an imporĀ­tant stage of olive oil proĀ­ducĀ­tion in its own right.

The International Olive Council (IOC), the interĀ­govĀ­ernĀ­menĀ­tal orgaĀ­niĀ­zaĀ­tion of olive oil-proĀ­ducĀ­ing nations, recĀ­omĀ­mends that olive oil undergo filĀ­traĀ­tion to remove any solid microparĀ­tiĀ­cles and water, increasĀ­ing the oilā€™s shelf life.


Extra virgin olive oil prior to filtering

Most comĀ­merĀ­cially availĀ­able extra virĀ­gin olive oils are filĀ­tered.

Unfiltered olive oil, also known as cloudy, veiled or olio nuovo, is availĀ­able in smaller quanĀ­tiĀ­ties and is appreĀ­ciĀ­ated by some conĀ­sumers who believe that it packs a richer flaĀ­vor and aroma and betĀ­ter retains its polypheĀ­nols than its filĀ­tered counĀ­terĀ­part.

Polyphenols are a type of bioacĀ­tive comĀ­pound present in olive oil (and parĀ­ticĀ­uĀ­larly in extra virĀ­gin olive oil) that are responĀ­siĀ­ble for many of olive oilā€™s health benĀ­eĀ­fits. This is why some conĀ­sumers seek high-polypheĀ­nol (or high-pheĀ­noĀ­lic) extra virĀ­gin olive oils.

There is no definĀ­iĀ­tive norm among olive oil proĀ­ducĀ­ers when it comes to filĀ­traĀ­tion. Some do not filĀ­ter their olive oils, while othĀ­ers take the extra step to obtain a clearer end prodĀ­uct.

See Also:If youā€™re not filĀ­terĀ­ing your olive oil, read this.

Filtering results in clearer flaĀ­vor and aroĀ­mas to the oil, has a minĀ­iĀ­mal effect on the conĀ­tent of polypheĀ­nols and other benĀ­eĀ­fiĀ­cial comĀ­pounds, and extends the oilā€™s shelf life.

Eleftheria Kasfiki, an export manĀ­ager at Olico Brokers, a botĀ­tling and exportĀ­ing comĀ­pany based in Athens, says filĀ­terĀ­ing is essenĀ­tial and preĀ­serves extra virĀ­gin olive oil and all of its qualĀ­iĀ­ties.

Kasfiki disĀ­agrees that olive oil retains its organolepĀ­tic charĀ­acĀ­terĀ­isĀ­tics when left unfilĀ­tered since sedĀ­iĀ­ment conĀ­sistĀ­ing of olive pulp parĀ­tiĀ­cles, moisĀ­ture and marĀ­garines ā€“ byprodĀ­ucts creĀ­ated durĀ­ing the ferĀ­menĀ­taĀ­tion of the olive oil in the botĀ­tle ā€“ gradĀ­uĀ­ally form at the botĀ­tom of the botĀ­tle, alterĀ­ing the flaĀ­vor and reducĀ­ing the shelf life of the oil.

She added that olive oil filĀ­terĀ­ing, espeĀ­cially when proĀ­ducĀ­ing extra virĀ­gin olive oil, is a demandĀ­ing process that requires investĀ­ments in equipĀ­ment and experĀ­tise to be done effecĀ­tively.

ā€œOlive oil filĀ­terĀ­ing removes the moisĀ­ture and any remainĀ­ing residĀ­uĀ­als in the oil, makĀ­ing it clear and ready for conĀ­sumpĀ­tion,ā€ Kasfiki says. ā€‹ā€œOnly in the case of early-harĀ­vested extra virĀ­gin olive oil (olio novĀ­ello), which is availĀ­able to conĀ­sumers for a short period of about three months each seaĀ­son, filĀ­terĀ­ing is eschewed.ā€

According to Matia Barciulli, an Italian chef and olive oil enthuĀ­siĀ­ast, some conĀ­sumersā€™ prefĀ­erĀ­ence for unfilĀ­tered olive oil is a remĀ­nant of the past.

ā€œThe mind goes back to the time when all the proĀ­ducĀ­tion process was so artiĀ­sanal, and the only opporĀ­tuĀ­nity for filĀ­terĀ­ing was a surĀ­face sepĀ­aĀ­raĀ­tion, with all the ferĀ­menĀ­taĀ­tion that process actiĀ­vated,ā€ he said.


Filtered olive oil

ā€œWe shouldĀ­nā€™t be debatĀ­ing on olive oil filĀ­terĀ­ing in our time,ā€ Barciulli added. ā€‹ā€œIt is easy to underĀ­stand that food which is meant to be kept for a long time must be as clean as posĀ­siĀ­ble, filĀ­tered, and stored in steel conĀ­tainĀ­ers.ā€

ā€œMany times, I walk into a superĀ­marĀ­ket, and I see peoĀ­ple lookĀ­ing at this horĀ­riĀ­ble transĀ­parĀ­ent botĀ­tle of olive oil with a cenĀ­timeĀ­ter of brown mass at the botĀ­tom,ā€ he conĀ­tinĀ­ued. ā€‹ā€œI explain to them that what they have is a botĀ­tle of ranĀ­cid oil with some unwanted flaĀ­vors trapped inside.ā€

Largely speakĀ­ing, filĀ­tered olive oil is more appealĀ­ing to conĀ­sumers than unfilĀ­tered oil due to its clarĀ­ity.

Filtered olive oil also boasts a longer shelf life; unfilĀ­tered olive oil is more prone to the effect of heat and light and should be conĀ­sumed more quickly than filĀ­tered extra virĀ­gin olive oil.

Unfiltered olive oil is often sought by nosĀ­talĀ­gic shopĀ­pers lookĀ­ing for freshly-milled olive oil to be conĀ­sumed immeĀ­diĀ­ately or within a couĀ­ple of months.

The difĀ­ferĀ­ence in nutriĀ­tional ingreĀ­diĀ­ents (such as polypheĀ­nols) between filĀ­tered and unfilĀ­tered olive oil is negĀ­liĀ­giĀ­ble. After all, the polypheĀ­nol conĀ­tent in olive oil mostly corĀ­reĀ­sponds to the variĀ­ety and oriĀ­gin of olives and proper proĀ­cessĀ­ing at the mill, rather than the filĀ­traĀ­tion process.

In any case, choosĀ­ing a filĀ­tered or an unfilĀ­tered extra virĀ­gin olive oil is a matĀ­ter of taste and perĀ­sonal prefĀ­erĀ­ence.

When olive oil filĀ­terĀ­ing is done propĀ­erly and in a timely manĀ­ner, the results can be rewardĀ­ing for proĀ­ducĀ­ers and conĀ­sumers alike.

Updated Sep. 27 10:27 UTC


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